CEOs slightly more optimistic this quarter

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The confidence of CEOs crept up a notch in the second half of 2008, according to the Conference Board’s Measure of CEO Confidence.

The confidence level of chief executives inched up to 39 in the second quarter, compared to 38 in the previous quarter. (A reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses.) The last time the measure fell below 38 was in the first quarter of 2000, when it dropped to 31.

“CEOs continue to rate current economic conditions as unfavorable, and their short-term expectations suggest this slow growth environment will exist for the remainder of the year,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement.

CEOs’ assessments of current economic conditions barely registered an improvement, with less than 7 percent stating economic conditions had improved, compared to 3 percent last quarter. In assessing their respective industries, business leaders were more pessimistic. About 9 percent claim conditions are better, down from 14 percent in the first quarter.

Looking ahead six months, the outlook was mixed. Today, 24 percent of business leaders expect economic conditions to improve in the next six months, up from 20 percent last quarter. Expectations for their respective industries, however, did not improve with 20 percent of CEOs anticipate an improvement in the months ahead, down from 23 percent last quarter.

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